OK, so maybe I got a little cocky last week. After a blazing start to the season, last week’s picks were a more pedestrian 6-5 against the spread. I’m still (theoretically) making money at that pace, but it’s more getting-by money than got-a-suite-at-Caesars money.
In short, my plan to move to Las Vegas and make my living gambling on sports is on hold… at least until I have a big week this week.
Tennessee (minus-1) at Florida, 3:30 p.m.
There are few streaks in college football that amaze me more than the fact Florida has beaten Tennessee 10 straight times. Will Muschamp was the Gators’ head coach in four of those games, you understand? The difference has been the ground game. Florida has averaged 179 yards on the ground and the Vols have averaged 50 in the last 10 meetings. This year’s Tennessee team is better suited to compete in this category. It leads the SEC in rushing attempts (158) and has averaged 258 yards per game on the ground behind backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. If Tennessee can’t snap the streak Saturday, the Butch Jones bandwagon is going to start to thin out.
BYU at Michigan (minus-5), 12 p.m.
The Cougars’ gauntlet continues with a trip to the Big House. BYU has already played Nebraska on the road and Boise State at home and will play at UCLA before the month is done. Fatigue might get them this week, but I don’t think the Wolverines will.
LSU (minus-24) at Syracuse, 12 p.m.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Mitch’s father Bob Mitch used to play safety at Syracuse. I’ll bet he’s glad he doesn’t this week because then he’d have to tackle Leonard Fournette. The Orange will get crushed.
Louisiana-Monroe at Alabama, 4 p.m.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is not great against the spread coming off a loss. Specifically, he’s only covered three times in 14 tries in that situation with the Crimson Tide, whose players generally have a hard time adjusting to anything less than perfection. That being said, Alabama and Saban currently are on a one-game losing streak against Monroe, dating back to a 2007 upset. (I’m going to take David Purdum’s advice and take ULM to cover as my “lock of the week” this week as I try to bounce back from my first loss of the season. My theoretical bankroll is now $520 after losing $30 on Auburn against LSU last week.)
TCU (minus-7) at Texas Tech, 4:45 p.m.
I’ve got the Frogs ranked high, but the TCU defense is getting perilously thin, mostly because of injury. The Red Raiders are feeling good about themselves coming off a win over Arkansas. Too good, probably.
Texas A&M (minus-7) vs. Arkansas, 7 p.m.
Speaking of Bret Bielema and the 1-2 Hogs, they begin conference play against Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies in Arlington, Texas. Bielema is in hot water throughout Texas because of negative comments it seems he made about the spread offense at a Texas high school clinic. He got beat by the spread last week by a team that doesn’t run it nearly as well as Texas A&M. You could assume this means trouble for Arkansas this week. I assume it’s just Bielema setting playing the long con on Sumlin and the SEC. Arkansas has run the ball 108 times and thrown it 94 times this year. Those numbers should be skewed way more toward the running game. Let’s watch this week.
Straight: Texas A&M
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss (minus-24.5), 7 p.m.
This will give us all an indication of how good the Commodores’ defense really is. If it’s pretty good (which is to say holds Ole Miss to 35 or fewer), the Gamecocks Oct. 17 game against Vanderbilt looks a lot scarier all of a sudden.
Straight: Ole Miss
ATS: Ole Miss
Mississippi State at Auburn (minus-2.5), 7:30 p.m.
Really? Auburn is favored in this game. With a first-time starter at quarterback in Sean White against probably the best quarterback in the league in Dak Prescott? I think I learned my lesson last week.
Straight: Mississippi State
ATS: Mississippi State
Missouri at Kentucky (minus-2.5), 7:30 p.m.
The only reason to watch this game is that it might give you some barometer of how good Kentucky, which beat USC in Williams-Brice, is versus Missouri, which hosts USC next week in Columbia, Mo. On second thought, it’s not worth that. Watch a good game instead during this time slot, and we’ll tell you about this one in Sunday’s paper.
UCLA (minus-3) at Arizona, 8 p.m.
The Bruins looked early like they could complete for the Pac-12 title but lost another top defender this week when linebacker (and sometimes running back) Myles Jack was lost for the season with an ACL injury. He’s the third UCLA defensive starter to be lost for the season to injury, joining defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes and cornerback Fabrian Moreau. Arizona star defender Scooby Wright could come back from a knee injury in this game.
Utah at Oregon (minus-11.5), 8:30 p.m.
I don’t have Utah ranked, and I should. The Utes are undefeated heading into Niketown, and I can’t get my arms fully around new Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams for some reason.
Southern Cal (minus-5.5) at Arizona State, 10:30 p.m.
You can talk all you want about the grind of an SEC schedule (and it is tough), but the Pac-12 is no cake walk either. The Trojans must bounce back from an upset loss against Stanford to face a pretty good Sun Devils team on the road.
Straight: Southern Cal
ATS: Arizona State